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LABUTTA, Myanmar — Within a week of the storm that flooded the delta here last month with waves as high as 20 feet, the monasteries in this village were swarming with 14,000 people who had lost their families, homes and livelihoods.
Now those refugees are all but gone.
A week ago, Myanmar’s state-run media were comparing the visits of the junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, to government-run refugee camps, like the neat rows of blue tents outside Labutta, to “parents’ loving kindness and good will toward their offspring.” The junta promised the United Nations that tight restrictions on aid workers — which were worsening the effects of a storm that left 134,000 dead or missing — would be eased.
But a visit to villages here in the Irrawaddy Delta, hit hardest by the May 3 cyclone, suggests that the reality has been different — and that the story of the death and destruction, compounded by the junta’s actions, has been neither fully told nor even fully seen.
Even as the junta publicly praised its own largess, it more quietly began evicting destitute families from monasteries and sending them back to their villages for “reconstruction” and a life of isolation. It then began shutting down its own refugee camps.